Inspired by Louisiana's Cajun Country, tasty shrimp and creamy grits will be on your table in 20 minutes.
Right now, thousands of St. Louis’s best party animals are giving New Orleans a run for its money. We don’t have Bourbon Street, but the historic Soulard neighborhod annually hosts a raging Mardi Gras the Saturday before Fat Tuesday. A huge parade, some ‘Nawlins-inspired food and plenty of booze keeps the party rocking until the wee hours of the morning.
Thank you just the same, but I’d rather be at home listening to the Preservation Hall Jazz Band on Spotify while enjoying a plate of these Easy Comforting Shrimp and Grits. If you’re looking for a quick dinner to whip up for Fat Tuesday (or to enjoy any time during Lent), this recipe is precisely what the doctor (Dr. John, that is) ordered. You’ll have this tasty and comforting dish on the table faster than you can say “let the good times roll.”
Cajun-style seasonings spice up the shrimp and the creamy corn grits are so silky and warming—perfect for a February or early March evening. It’s really a great little recipe that serves two people: just add the soundtrack and a cocktail of your choice and you’ve got a private Mardi Gras party at your fingertips.
While this is my take on the classic Southern dish, shrimp and grits was first enjoyed by Low Country laborers along the South Carolina coastal areas. Over several decades, inventive cooks expanded on the simple boiled shrimp with grits lunch; today, there are almost as many versions throughout the South as there are beads hanging from trees along New Orleans parade routes. So, let’s get cooking, chér!
To make my Easy Comforting Shrimp and Grits recipe, which makes two servings, you’ll need these ingredients:
12 medium shrimp (about 2 inches long), cleaned and deveined
1 tablespoon Cajun seasoning
½ green pepper, finely chopped
½ cup corn salsa (from jar)
2 ounces ham, diced
½ cup yellow grits
1 cup milk
½ cup water
1 green onion
2 tablespoons sour cream (optional)
1 tablespoon olive oil
Why the corn salsa? A valid question. There’s a wonderful Louisiana Cajun side dish called maque choux (pronounced mock-shoe) that’s chocked full of sweet summer corn, bell peppers, tomatoes, onions and spices. Corn salsa is a nod to this traditional summer side, and it also creates a very quick sauce for the shrimp. Look for this style of salsa at your grocer’s; it’s probably there. If not, simply add a small can of corn to your favorite salsa.
Let’s talk ham. If you can find tasso—a Cajun spiced, smoked ham that’s beloved in southern Louisiana—extra points for you. Another nice swap for ham would be andouille sausage that’s been removed from its casing. Just be sure to brown it well before adding the shrimp. I had neither of these ingredients in the refrigerator, so let it be known plain old ham will work just fine.
Finally, if you don’t have any Cajun seasoning in your pantry, you can make a simple swap by combining ¼ teaspoons each of cayenne, garlic salt, smoked paprika and onion powder.
Instructions to make Easy Comforting Shrimp and Grits recipe:
Get a large skillet heated on medium-high heat. Add oil green pepper and ham to skillet and cook until ingredients start to brown. Three minutes in.
Push this to one side of pan. Toss shrimp in spice and add to skillet. Cook shrimp about 1 minute on each side until they just turn pink. Remove from heat. Five minutes in.
Now it’s time for the grits. In a medium saucepan, add milk, water and a pinch of salt. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat.
Back to the skillet, stir in corn salsa, coating shrimp, ham and pepper well. Set aside until grits are finished.
When liquids come to a gentle boil, turn heat to low, add grits and stir for about 3 minutes. Remove from heat, put a lid on the saucepan and let the grits continue to absorb liquid for another 2 minutes.
Chop the green onion for garnish. My grits seized up a little, so I added a splash of water until they were creamy. I also stirred in 2 tablespoons of sour cream for a little extra richness. You could swap cream for grated cheddar cheese.
Told you it was easy! And man, is it ever delicious! I mean, when you take a bite and say to yourself, “damn, this is good,” you know you’ve nailed a recipe. The spice on the shrimp balanced well with the sweetness of the tomato and corn salsa. Adding milk and water to cook the grits gave it a little richness (and the sour cream didn’t hurt, either). Even that little amount of ham gave a nice salty presence to the dish, and the hum of the green onion finished the whole plate beautifully. To observe the abstaining of meat during the Lenten season, just leave out the ham.
Give my Easy Comforting Shrimp and Grits a try. It’s a taste of the Big Easy that will jazz up your Mardi Gras or Lenten supper plans.
About the blog
Three Women in the Kitchen is an award-winning food blog offering today’s home cooks comforting, hearty recipes with a personal touch. The website also pays tribute to Deborah’s mother, Katie Reinhardt, and paternal grandmother, Dorothy Reinhardt (the “three women” in the kitchen). Whether you’re an experienced or a novice cook, you’ll find inspiration here to feed your families and warm your heart. Subscribe today so you won’t miss a single delicious detail.